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Neutral Zone Wrap: Who's on the rebound?

by | Rotowire.com
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The regular season is here. Hallelujah!

Hope you had a relaxing summer, one where absolutely nothing happened except for the anticipation of meaningful NHL action. OK, so maybe you moved to another country and got married. But even if those events took place in the last few months, then your sights must have remained locked on hockey.

You may have forgotten some material since the Blackhawks shocked the Bruins (and us) in Game 6 of the Cup Final. Hope you have perused the other site resources and articles and feel sufficiently caught up. But if you're craving one more piece to get you going, then you're in luck.

There's always room for improvement. Not only in your leagues but also for actual NHLers who are poised to step up their game. Here are a few hopefuls who may not be getting the most attention or may be maligned for recent indiscretions but could serve as fantasy gold. (NOTE: These individuals could end up depreciating in value but that would depend on uncontrollable factors or how you use them in your lineup. In other words, plan accordingly.)

(For other related examples, be sure to check out Jan Levine's sleepers article.)

Brad Boyes, F, Panthers: Posted very respectable numbers with the Islanders in 2012-13 (35 points in 48 games, including 13 on the power-play) but was probably pushed out due to a forward glut. On a relatively young Panther lineup, Boyes was brought aboard on a tryout basis and has seamlessly fit in on a line with Kris Versteeg and rookie Aleksander Barkov. Don't expect any eye-popping figures; somewhere in the 50-point range will suffice.

Jannik Hansen, F, Canucks: The recipient of a new four-year, $10 million contract will be asked to assume more responsibility. In his five-year career, the Danish winger has excelled as a shorthanded contributor and is slowly working his way as a dependable top-six forward (note the 27 in 47 last year). With Zack Kassian maintaining his penchant for on-ice stupidity, it would seem Hansen is firmly positioned as the second right winger on the Canucks' depth chart and a spot on one of the power-play units.

Jussi Jokinen, F, Penguins: Fine, so Jokinen became an immediate success (11 in 10) after arriving from Carolina in April. But it was presumed the Finn wouldn't be able to repeat this feat skating on the third or fourth unit. In training camp and exhibition action, he has displayed great chemistry with Evgeni Malkin and James Neal (including a hat-trick against Columbus). And it seems that anyone who teams up with that duo should be destined for something better than average. It's funny to think the Canes are still paying a quarter of Jokinen's salary as part of their giveaway sweepstakes.

Ryan Miller, G, Sabres: You might be surprised to see the 2010 Vezina winner listed in this category but Miller belongs here. His stats last season 'slipped' to a 17-17-5 record with a 2.81 GAA, mainly a factor of a fresh Sabres squad that finished last in the Northeast. Some of the media and fan pressure looks like it eventually affected Miller, although he kept his cool and proved to be Buffalo's best player on many nights. Fortunately, there are three factors working in his favor. First off, Miller will undoubtedly want to prove his detractors wrong and step up his game. Secondly, his long-term contract expires next summer and he will want to exhibit his top skills for a new deal. And finally, the starter from Vancouver 2010 will be motivated for Sochi in his bid to reclaim the #1 job for the US squad. (Jonathan Quick appears to be the current frontrunner.)

Sami Salo, D, Lightning: A lot more was expected of Salo after inking a deal with the Bolts before last season. After all, the now-39 year old has always been known for his cannon from the point. And although Tampa finished in the top-half of the league in power-play percentage (13th at 19%), he wasn't a major factor (seven PPPs, 17 overall) and only managed a shot per game (with a paltry two goals). With a season in the Sunshine State under his belt and no Vincent Lecavalier to hinder backline man-advantage opportunities, expect Salo to increase his frequency hitting the net and continue scaring the bejeezus out of opposing goalies.

Honorable mention: Justin Abdelkader, F, Detroit; Josh Bailey, F, NY Islanders; Colin Greening, F, Ottawa; Adam Larsson, D, New Jersey; Tim Thomas, G, Florida

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Player News
Adam Henrique
Henrique's Assertiveness Pays Off
Adam Henrique, C, NJ
1:09 AM
News: Adam Henrique was one of five in Saturday's loss to the Sharks.
Analysis: While Adam Henrique's goal output is nothing to rave about, his offensive aggression can be an asset to fantasy owners, especially given the amount of minutes he plays.

Alex Stalock
Sharks' Stalock To Start Sunday
Alex Stalock, G, SJ
12:43 AM
News: Alex Stalock will start in the goal Sunday against the Rangers, David Pollak of the Mercury News reports.
Analysis: Alex Stalock has put up a couple of solid starts so far this season, and will look for another one Sunday, where he will continue his quest to earn the team's starting spot.

Victor Hedman
Bolts' Hedman Out Four Games
Victor Hedman, D, TB
12:36 AM
News: Victor Hedman (upper body) is expected to miss the rest of the Lightning's road trip, the team's official site reports.
Analysis: Victor Hedman suffered an undisclosed upper body injury in Saturday's game, where it appeared he took a puck off his hand. If he is indeed out for the remained of the road trip, he will not return until October 28 against Arizona.

Andy Greene
Devils' Greene Producing on Both Ends
Andy Greene, D, NJ
10/19/2014
News: Andy Greene filled up the stat sheet on Saturday, with four blocked shots, an assist, and one point.
Analysis: The Devils' top defenseman shows that he is capable of being a two way player on the ice. While defense is his calling card, his ability to produce offensively makes him an interesting choice for fantasy owners who are looking for a player who has balanced production on a nightly basis.

Nikita Zadorov
Sabres To Decide Zadorov's Fate In 48 Hours
Nikita Zadorov, D, BUF
10/19/2014
News: Nikita Zadorov, who has been a healthy scratch for all season, will find out where he'll play this year in the new few days, reports the Olean Times Herald.
Analysis: In a twist of events, Nikita Zadorov's agent revealed that the London Knights may not be an option for Zadorov this year. The big bruising defenseman's rights are owned by SKA St. Petersburg, a KHL team captained by Ilya Kovalchuk that has gone 17-1-1 this season. Last year, St. Petersburg agreed to release Zadorov to the OHL, but that isn't the case this year. The Sabres want to keep a close eye on their prospects and don't want Zadorov to develop in a league so far away, but there may be no choice. The Sabres are waiting to see how Mark Pysyk and Jake McCabe rebound from their preseason injuries, but even if both falter it's hard to see the Sabres play Zadorov. Stay tuned.

Rasmus Ristolainen
Sabres "Almost Scratched" Ristolainen Last Week
Rasmus Ristolainen, D, BUF
10/19/2014
News: Head coach Ted Nolan believed Rasmus Ristolainen was suffering from fatigue and considered making him a scratch last week, reports the Olean Times Herald.
Analysis: Nolan hinted that it wasn't physical fatigue that was ailing Rasmus Ristolainen, but mental fatigue, citing the "lights and action" of the NHL being overwhelming for young players. Nolan didn't say which game he considered sitting Ristolainen, but did say he came out flying on Friday. That lends to the belief that Nolan may have wanted Ristolainen to sit Tuesday vs. Carolina in the second part of a back-to-back after a 5-1 loss to Anaheim on Monday where he played a season-low 14:38 and failed to register a shot. Ristolainen is not an elite defenseman yet, but he'll get there. With the Sabres struggling, expect Nolan to juggle players in and out of the lineup all year.

Kevin Hayes
Rangers' Hayes Records First Career Goal
Kevin Hayes, RW, NYR
10/19/2014
News: Kevin Hayes tallied his first career point, a goal, in a 4-0 win over the Sharks on Sunday.
Analysis: The rookie has quickly been climbing up the organizational ranks, and centered the second line on Sunday with Rick Nash and Chris Kreider. It's likely not a permanent position, and though he won just five of his 14 faceoffs, he did record the team's fourth goal.

Martin St. Louis
Rangers' St. Louis Nets Goal In Win
Martin St. Louis, RW, NYR
10/19/2014
News: Martin St. Louis scored, his first of the season, in a 4-0 win over the Sharks on Sunday.
Analysis: After struggling in the regular season after being traded to the Rangers last season, scoring just once in 19 games, this was just his second as a Blueshirt. He still managed to end up with 30 goals though, and should be one of the better point scorers again this season.

Luke Gazdic
Oilers' Gazdic Still Two Weeks Away
Luke Gazdic, LW, EDM
10/19/2014
News: Luke Gazdic (shoulder) believes he is still a couple of weeks away from playing, according to the Oilers Web Site.
Analysis: Luke Gazdic has been cleared for contact and has been taking part in practice but still needs to work off the rust and get into game shape.

Carl Hagelin
Rangers' Hagelin Scores In Win
Carl Hagelin, LW, NYR
10/19/2014
News: Carl Hagelin scored the opening goal of a 4-0 win over the Sharks on Sunday.
Analysis: After setting a career high in goals last season with 17, Carl Hagelin had yet to record a point this season until Sunday. Hagelin could have some fantasy value if he can improve on his point totals from last season, but his slow start is worth keeping an eye before taking a chance on him.

 
 
 
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